Friday, December 31, 2010

NYE party tonight at Murphy's

If you're looking for a rocking party to ring in the new year, Big Daddy D and the Dynamites will be at Murphy's tonight, 8:30-12:30. It'll be a ton 'o fun if you're there!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Snow day

Nothing notable in the Courier, and we're staying in today. If you have to go into work, stay safe!

Noon: Great comment on the racism retrospective today and Councilman Blair's radio remarks in response. "Really Sad":

Until this AM, I was willing to give Blair a pass under the theory that any right wing politician appearing on a right wing station runs a higher risk of a mishap than most. His temporary removal from KYCA was arguably wrong, and the way people went after his family bread business was not right either.

After listening to his show this AM on KYCA however, the conclusion one sadly must reach is the good Councilman still does not get it. Like Nixon on Watergate and Clinton on Lewinsky, Mr. Blair has yet to accept that perhaps his remarks last Spring were the cause of his problems, not the few liberals in town or his political adversaries. Instead of feeling chastened by the damage his unchecked remarks brought to the image of Prescott across the planet, his attitude echos that of Nixon in his day with the same peculiar mixture of maudlin victimhood mixed with an arrogant mocking of those who disagree with his unfortunate comments.

The thing that both fascinates and repels about listening to Blair uncut, is the man's utter authenticity. He is truly the face of Prescott and truly represents eloquently the electorate that voted for him.

Quibble: It wasn't "people" who took away his bread-delivery franchise, it was his employer, in response to a complaint from the Olive Garden and other customers, who were concerned about blowback from Blair's unrepentant, continuing attacks on the mural, the Miller Valley School kids depicted in it, and the value on diversity. He had complete freedom to speak, and he did. Freedom of speech does not imply a right to freedom from consequences.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

No-news Wednesday

When the Courier's top front-page story is a retread of its own coverage and the most prominent local hard-news story is about a dog adoption, things must be pretty good in Everybody's Hometown. This is not to say there's nothing to report, of course.

The story most likely to affect the lives of everyone in Prescott for the next ten years is slipping by without Courier coverage. It seems our power-mad legislative leaders are trying to cheat the law by screwing around with the redistricting commission.

It'll be up to our state courts to make sure this doesn't succeed. Who's taking bets?

Update, 11pm: It seems the commission wouldn't be bullied after all and called Sen Pearce's bluff. Let's see if he and Speaker Adams follow through on their threat to sue.

Update, Friday: It didn't take long -- Russell Pearce Sues in Bid to Rig Redistricting

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Officers arrest fewer people for DUI during statewide enforcement

It seems our lawnforcement professionals arrested half as many people for drunk driving in this year's holiday push. Lisa's story -- and, I expect, the press release that appears to be her only source -- implies that there were half as many people to arrest, therefore fewer people driving drunk. Amazing!

Readers are encouraged to imagine that the same number of officers were working the same places with the same enthusiasm and methods as last year. None of this is detailed, and it seems unlikely given the deep budget cuts across the state in the past year.

A more critical (and likely) spin would be that our lawnforcement professionals were only able to do half the job they did last year.

Even though this story compares numbers from last year with this year's, the careful reader can't conclude anything solid from it about the trend in drunk driving. The news is obscured by incurious stenography passing as reportage, a regular feature of the Courier news pages.

Monday, December 27, 2010

ToMA: Ignorance runs rampant in online comments

City bureaucrat Linda Hartmann steps up to defend her co-workers from the "hateful diatribes" in the online comments, and calls on the editors to quit publishing them.

The twist in her undies is clearly caused by the Elks Theatre intrigue, but she won't talk about that directly. She thinks Steve Norwood is the best city manager in recent memory (she's wrong -- Mark Stevens was a fair bit smarter -- but they've all been mediocre at best), that Prescott PD is above reproach (wrong again, of course), and our Council is "doing what they think is right," which to Ms Hartmann apparently equates with "doing the right thing." She dogs on former employees who criticize current ones. She goes on for 800 words or so refuting the "uninformed" commenters, but ends by claiming she doesn't care what they think.

I can understand how a white, salaried, mid-level City desk worker could sincerely believe all these things. What she lacks is experience dealing with City Hall as an outsider. Courier employees often express the same sort of institutional defensiveness. It's to be expected. But it demonstrates how hard it can be to communicate with City employees about the problems they create and participate in. A far better response would be to give people the benefit of the doubt and try to see how you can be part of the solution.

This is the second major public display of official sensitivity about Courier comments, following the Mayor's attempt to strongarm Deb Thurston a few months ago. It demonstrates that many City employees and elected officials pay close attention to the comments on an ongoing basis, therefore the comments are a strong tool for communicating with City Hall. I would hope that might make commenters a little more serious about what they're writing.

Ms Hartmann is correct, of course, that a lot of comments are idiotic, emotionally driven BS and gratuitous and often unwarranted personal attacks. (She misses that her own opinions here are emotional and poorly informed.) She's also right that anonymity increases incivility. The commenters who defend anonymity don't realize how many reasonable, informed and civil people are so put off by the uncivil environment that they refrain from getting involved. This has all been true since online communities began in the '80s and it will always be true. With more personal skin in the game, there's a lot less venting and lying. Registration and real names would be a good and responsible thing for the Courier to institute.

Regular readers know that I'm very skeptical about the claim that using one's own name on a comment commonly leads to harassment by employers or ideological opponents. I've been a high-profile commenter taking unpopular positions for years without any untoward social consequences other than the odd hairy eyeball from a certain Courier employee. If you're afraid of consequences, what makes it so important to comment on the paper? Like as not you're really just afraid of shadows. Try taking a few months off from TV and see how you feel about it then.

Bonus track, Wednesday: A comment appears today titled "The Susan Thomas Story," in which the commmenter pulls some interesting research from the Courier archive. Excellent!

Air Force recruiter tries to help people better their lives

There are a couple of ways to look at this little puff piece for military life, and neither recommends it.

From the standpoint of the kid who's considering joining up, there's no mention of the purpose and sole mission of the organization: to kill people and blow stuff up at the behest of people who never have to deal with the consequences directly. If I'd read this without knowing what the Air Force is, I might've concluded that it was some sort of job-training program. There ought to be at least a nod to the gravity of the decision this boy is considering, for the benefit of other boys and girls coming out of our starved education system without the skills to work in the real world.

From the taxpayer's perspective, I always resent that we are encouraged to think of the military option as a career step for young people, even as therapy to give them maturity or a sense of responsibility. I'm not interested in hiring people into that sort of job who are chasing public benefits. It's serious business and should never be undertaken lightly.

This piece is light on both counts, mere stenography for the PR department of the military-industrial complex.

It hits close to home for me because my nephew, always unstable and irresponsible as well as brain-damaged in a car accident when he was 16, got the Army to take him on the fourth try and did three tours in Iraq as a grunt. Well, almost three -- before he finished the last one he was completely out of his mind and accused of murdering a civilian. Two years later they're still trying to figure out whether he's competent to stand trial. Had the adults around him taken the decision more seriously, we might have prevented this tragedy.

Followup: Catch-22

The results are in from our annual holiday perp walk of most-wanted evildoers. Of the 22 listees, five are new to the list. The rest are old familiar faces. Six are wanted for nonviolent offenses, and all are white. Of the 16 violent offenders, all but one are Hispanic.

My analysis is unchanged from May, and you can read that here. My bottom line is that this list and the practice of running it twice a year is either pointedly or negligently racist, and it ought to stop, both for its offense to the public discourse and its lack of news value. The particulars:

Miguel Franco: murder, 2006 4x
Claudio Lopez: murder, 2006 4x
Domingo Valdez-Anguiano: murder, 2004 4x
Joel Medina-Ortiz: murder, 2006 3x
Manuel Dera: homicide, 1998 3x

Valentine Hernandez: vehicular assault, 2003 4x
Luis Florez: vehicular assault, 2000 4x
Joel Vidrio: assault with a deadly weapon, 2004 4x
Carlos Pimentel: home invasion, 2007 4x
Eleazar Valdez, DUI hit and run, 2009, new
Juan Dominguez: assault, 2010, new
Lanny Kearns: arson, assault, 2010, new

Enrique Soto, child abuse, 2009, new
Ruth Cardoso-Gomez: negligent homicide, child abuse 4x
(Note that Nancy Collins, wanted in the Sylar Newton case, didn't make the list. Update: Flagstaff police found her on Dec 26.)

(sexual assault)
Jose Herrera-Martinez: child molestation 4x
Ernesto Romero-Salcedo: sexual conduct with a minor 3x

Kory France: drug mule, jumped bail 2x
Kristen Martin: meth possession and auto theft, 2005 2x
Olivia Sobelman: pot mule, jumped bail, 2010, new
Patrick Waibel: pot mule, jumped bail, 2010, new

David Dehart: failure to register 4x
Herschell Scott: failure to register 2x

I didn't see the stories detailing the apprehension of former most-wanteds Pablo Arredondo-Herrera (attempted murder, aggravated assault and kidnapping 3x), Travis Brewer (assault 2x) or Adam Stevenson (sexual assault on a minor 3x), but two out-of-state drug mules made the new list. How odd.

Time off

I had to take a couple of weeks off from the blog during our annual paroxysm of naked consumption disguised under quaint religiosity and pretended tradition. The continuous barrage of non-stories purportedly about the season but ultimately about buying more stuff was just too much to bear this year, sorry.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Media flashback

We saw Bob Roberts again over the weekend, still one of the funniest/scariest satires on the rise of radical corporatism. With its 1992 release the Robbins brothers predicted with alarming accuracy what was coming for this country. I have to wonder whether even they imagined it would go as far as it has today.

Editorial: Maintain your fear, but don't be scared

With today's editorial I get the feeling that the unnamed Courier editor has been taking some writing lessons from JJ Casserly. He dumps out his terrorism file in more or less random, unexamined statements, and in the end leaves the reader with a contradictory non sequitur.

"We need to be vigilant, of course," he says, supporting the ridiculous notion that amateurs keeping a close eye out for terrorists at Wal-Mart could somehow be useful, "and secure our country the best ways we know how. At the same time," contradicting himself, "we cannot live in constant fear. If [the terrorists] smell that, they win." Did anyone else laugh out loud at this?

Having our former governor on the Wal-Mart PA exhorting us to be suspicious of our neighbors is just the sort of absurdist nightmare that lends cheer to the hearts of fundamentalist manipulators of all stripes, including (especially) our home-grown ones. Making distrust fashionable and looking for the worst in each other erodes our social fabric, dividing us, isolating us and making us easy to stampede in whatever direction they like.

Editor, having you think it's reasonable and prudent to write confused, alarmist crap like this is exactly the sort of win "the terrorists" are looking for.

What you're not seeing is who the truly scary terrorists are -- the religious fanatics, the social oppressors, the authoritarians and would-be fascist dictators who wrap themselves in our nation's flag and do everything they can to undermine our values and government from within. You soak up their propaganda from your teevee every night, editor, and here you're doing their work for them.

Surprise! Supposed radical doing practical job

On today's op-ed page, Michelle Singletary's column (reprinted from WaPo) focuses on what Elizabeth Warren is doing with the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Republicans screamed bloody murder that she would be a firebrand radical writing rules guaranteed to take down our entire financial industry. Instead we find that she's doing steady, practical work to make consumers smarter about credit.

Will voters notice that once again the Republicans, through character assassination and lies, tried to sell us a bill of goods to protect the privileges of the industry that recently tanked our whole economy? Some of us will.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Letter: Bipartisan squabbles undermine progress

Just go read this great letter from David Hackathorn.

Friday catchall: "I don't see color"

In his personal column today, Tim protests that the Catch-22 features are misunderstood. "People assume that it's all about race," but "I don't see the color, folks. To me, it does not matter."

Perhaps if Tim cared about the strong undercurrent of racism in Prescott, he'd understand how he's facilitating it. Is it that you don't see it, Tim, or are you refusing to see it?

To sum up my previous analysis on this, the perps featured by Yavapai Silent Witness fall into two clear categories: offenders who are white and nonviolent, and long-gone old cases who are Hispanic and violent. No violent whites, no non-violent Hispanics.

YSW selects the offenders for this "most wanted" treatment, which implies a set of selection criteria. So far this round the only new "most-wanted" cases on the list are two white kids passing through the state on the highway who happened to get caught with pot and jumped bail. For pretty much any thinking person reading this, these offenses do not rise above the who-cares level. So we can reasonably infer that YSW does not have enough live cases to fill any of the 22 slots they set up for themselves.

With only who-cares and dead cases to choose from, what do they choose? Should we imagine that there are no dead cases of violence by white people? I think not.

As a professional newsman, Tim should have the skills to see this farce for what it is: a biannual funds promotion for the Silent Witness program with racist undertones and, most important, without news value. It's a failed experiment, and the Courier should take the lead in sending it back to the bush leagues.

Update, Friday night: The Saturday edition includes the first Hispanic perp wanted on a recent beef, assault on a cop.

Front page: Ousted mayor enjoys mountain biking, retirement lifestyle

Um, what in the world is this bit of attic-rummaging doing on the front page? What is it doing in the paper at all? Rick Killingsworth was out in PV six years ago, Ken. Is the Courier a personal scrapbook for its employees and their old friends? You could play up the biking angle and put it in the Vitality section, maybe, but it's not news despite the opportunity for Tom Steele to replay his glory days.

Just by the by, I was no fan of Killingsworth as mayor, but I was in on some of the awful stuff that Tony Mortillaro was doing at PV Town Hall, and his firing was well deserved and a long time coming.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Editorial: Feds butting in on Arizona law again

I have to say I'm getting awfully tired of the unnamed Courier editor's narcissistic childishness around immigration policy, exemplified in today's editorial.

The question of whether federal law trumps state law was decisively settled 145 years ago. But the kindergarten states'-rights argument in the headline is no more than clumsy agitprop.

If the Supreme Court were hearing a suit challenging the constitutional standing of state sanction of gay marriage in Massachusetts, the editor would be first to write in support of it. This happens to be a challenge to legislation he likes, and so out come the swords.

We have to accept that pretty much whenever the states try anything new, court challenge to establish that the new law works with older and higher law is an inevitable and necessary part of the process. Voters and legislators in the states can't just willy-nilly write any law they happen to like. In this way the courts test new laws to make sure they work in context, with the effect of giving them greater credibility when they pass the test.

Given the progress of the suit so far I expect the Supreme Court will uphold Arizona, but that's not nearly as interesting as watching the editor get his briefs in a bunch over nothing. It exposes an acute lack of understanding of the legal process and an emotional attachment to Arizona's anti-immigrant campaign that only confirms what he derides as "the assumption that Arizona is a racist and discriminatory state."

Arizona is people, editor, and a large number of us are indeed racist, including a majority of your legislature and your governor. That's just obvious fact. The courts are there to prevent the reflexive zeal that you exhibit here from running roughshod over our legal system. Where we fairly don't have the final say on a decision, adults deal with it. Children whine. Which are you?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Oh, great. Another big party.

So for the centennial celebration of our great state, we hear in Cindy's story today about what -- driving the first spikes on a new passenger rail corridor connecting north and south? A statewide push on science and technology education to train engineers and technicians for the switch to 80% renewable energy by 2025? A sustained statewide program to better preserve our parks, wilderness and historical heritage? Nope. We get another traveling trinket fair.

Can our tourism experts really think of nothing better to add value to the occasion than funnel cakes and tee-shirts? Are we really so lacking in imagination and guts that we can't go forward with something that will be remembered in another hundred years?

The street fair is fine as far as it goes, who cares? But fergadsake let's not pass up this opportunity to do something useful and important for the future, show the world and the rest of the state that we're not just a bunch of passive lumps.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Courier's annual Xmas perp-walk

Again we have the biannual "Catch-22" feature, and again we have mostly the same old faces from years past. I wrote on this last year and investigated it more extensively in May, and it'll be fun (if you're really hung up for something to do) to watch to see how many of this year's are moldy oldies. Out of the seven mugshots so far, six are repeats from May, and four of those are violent offenders, all of Mexican heritage. Again the Courier reinforces the perception that this qualifies for endlessly repeated coverage.

The only new face is a drug mule passing through on the interstate. Guess we live in a pretty safe place, huh?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Irony alert

Today's edition of Pop Rocket includes the first in what is to be a regular column by yours truly on politics, media and whatever else comes up. It's not widely known that Pop Rocket was recently acquired by Prescott Newspapers Inc., parent of the Daily Courier.

Tena Overacker is still editing, though for some reason they won't allow her the title, and there's no concern about the Courier editors interfering with content. Hope you like it!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Prosecuting Julian

I gotta quick question: How can the Justice Department justify prosecuting Julian Assange, who was handed some classified information and published some of it, with no mention of prosecuting The New York Times editors, who were handed the same classified information and published some of it?

Editorial: China's waffling is enabling North Korea

I gather our unnamed Courier editor is growing bored with our little town. Maybe the annual battle over the holiday sentiment expressed atop City Hall is no longer enough to float his boat.

Back when he was kept busier scooping up Ben Hansen's road apples, Tim had his Staples button reprogrammed to buzz "Local, local, local," at every opportunity. In today's editorial it appears he's promoted himself to editor of The Washington Post. It's great to have ambition, but best to bear in mind that success requires doing your homework.

Honestly, who in the world cares what The Prescott Daily Courier thinks China should do about North Korea? Maybe Tim heard that China's been hacking the Internet, and imagines some Charlie Chan-like bureaucrat poring over his editorials, searching for foreign-policy direction. Here's a hint, editor: When you're rewriting Krauthammer, anyone interested in the subject is either gonna go read Krauthammer instead or, for those more familiar with Krauthammer's analytical skills, write you off as a right-wing wacko and move on.

Here's the homework you missed. The idea that China still values the North Korean "buffer zone" against the west is a laughable antique. International conflict is no longer prosecuted with infantry and tanks, it's done with economics and information. China would love to have an industrial consumer state like South Korea on an accessible border offering easy profits, and even confirmed that in one of the recently leaked State Department cables.

China has almost as little leverage as the rest of the world does in Pyongyang. Diplomatic and even military principles rely on people pursuing their own best interests. But in a chess game where your opponent is not trying to win, it's impossible to make sense of the board. North Korea has essentially strapped on a suicide vest, and its goals are irrational, self-referencing and sociopathic. China and everyone else in the region are doing all they can to just keep the worst from happening for another day in hopes that the regime will eventually collapse from within without too much collateral damage. No one in the region imagines that this will end as tidily as it did in East Germany, or even Yugoslavia.

The editor warns, "unless something changes dramatically with North Korea, Beijing and Pyongyang can expect a nuclear-armed South Korea and Japan in the near future," as if the Kim regime could be rationally deterred from anything or Beijing would give a rat's butt about a Japanese bomb. This is nonsense. Kim maintains his power based on perceived and invented outside threats, so pointing more missiles at him only exacerbates the situation. South Korea is already armed with American "tactical" nukes. Japan knows better, and is constitutionally prevented from getting involved in nuclear weapons beyond the nudge and wink that allows it to resupply US Navy nuke carriers.

Please, editors, I beg you, get your heads out of the teevee and focus on your community. You can imagine yourselves in Yankee Stadium all you like, but you're still playing sandlot ball, and there's no shame in that.